Things I Wish We Talked About More Often

Tuesdays_with_Morrie_book_cover

The book Tuesday’s With Morrie, which I read in middle school, was life changing. It got me to think and talk about all the things that I think now are some of the most important things to think and talk about.

Mitch, in the book, meets with Morrie every Tuesday, and each week they talk about a different topic:

  1. The World
  2. Feeling Sorry For Yourself
  3. Regrets
  4. Death
  5. Family
  6. Emotions
  7. Fear of Aging
  8. Money
  9. How Love Goes On
  10. Marriage
  11. Our Culture
  12. Forgiveness

How often do you talk about these things? Are these the most important things to talk about?

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Everything I Wanted to Know About the Government Shutdown

Honestly, I’m sick of hearing about the Government Shutdown. Republicans hate Obamacare, Democrats are hating the Republican’s taking the Government “hostage”. I’m not here to point out who’s right or wrong. I’m more interested in why this is happening.

That’s when I came across this amazing article: This Government Shutdown Won’t Be Our Last. The article goes on to compare the current situation with past empires and manages to identify a pattern. This is an excerpt quoted in the article from Lieutenant Colonel Greg Mosser’s US Army War College Master Thesis from 2009:

Nations that reach global supremacy have economies that were built upon years and years of positive forces, all cumulatively pushing to a crescendo that is powerful and resilient. Once at the pinnacle, however, a nation’s attitudes and collective values often change and slowly dampen the powerful economic force that propelled it to its state. These same attitudes and values often result in behaviors that enable another nation to build its economy to one of global superiority. With slight variations on the precise factors, the cycle perpetuates throughout history.

Nations that grow to dominance have repeatedly failed to slow their spending as they reach a plateau, leading to collapse through financial meltdowns. In 60 BC, Statesman Cato filibustered deals to get what he wanted in a government budget negotiation (Rome was having financial problems at this time too). In the 16th century Renaissance Spain, the Hapsburg empire grew so large, they declared bankruptcy 4 times. The Ottoman Empire too, has serious budget problems as it neared it’s end.

Basically, as nations grow larger, they spend more to maintain it. Individuals who have gained political power often do so by promising many things to many people. This leads to a culture of overspending, not caused by the government itself, but by the disparate motives of individuals in the government.

Of course this argument has it’s flaws (as you can read in the comments of the linked article), I think it bring up very good point. We need to spend less, just look at our government deficit over the last 33 years:

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The first step to change is measuring (collecting data), and the next is to understand it. My favorite way of getting an understanding of complicated problems is interactive infographics!

Start by checking out Washington Post’s Charting the Change in 2013 Federal Budget, you can click on any of the boxes to see historical changes over time.

Then, check out these two infographics that breakdown the 2014 budget proposals:

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Idea: Github for Music – The Open Source Music Project

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Update: Found it! Two weeks later, this article popped up on TechCrunch: Splice Is GitHub for Musicians. (I wrote this article on Sept 26, TechCrunch article is Oct 9)

What if I could take a bass beat that you created, and a strum that let’s say Julie created and create my own song directly on a web app? It would automatically give attributes to people’s sound-bytes or full songs that I used to build my song.

Someone could then take the song I created, sample bits of it into another song. This would again, automatically attribute me, but also you and Julie.

Since musicians are already doing this, why not create a platform that allows people to easily collaborate and build songs on top of other people’s song, but with proper attribution?

Here are a few awesome open source music sites, but nothing’s quite there.

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Pandora Risk Factors

These are actually taken straight out of Pandora’s recent S-3 filings, where you can also see things like their annual revenue, expenses, etc. I’m sharing this because I think it’s important, especially if you’re in the music/tech space, and because I assume most of my friends don’t read through S-3 filings…

And if you’re an entrepreneur, ask yourself this: have I thought through the risk factors of my business? And if so, am I being honest with my investors about these? Just a thought.

In their own words:

  • Internet radio is an emerging market, which makes it difficult to evaluate our current business and future prospects.
  • We have incurred significant operating losses in the past and may not be able to generate sufficient revenue to be profitable.
  • Our failure to convince advertisers of the benefits of our service in the future could harm our business.
  • Advertising on mobile devices, such as smartphones, is an emerging phenomenon, and if we are unable to increase revenue from our advertising products delivered to mobile devices, our results of operations will be materially adversely affected.
  • If our efforts to attract prospective listeners and to retain existing listeners are not successful, our growth prospects and revenue will be adversely affected.
  • We have experienced rapid growth in both listener hours and advertising revenue. We do not expect to be able to sustain these growth rates in the future and our business and operating results may suffer.
  • If our efforts to attract and retain subscribers are not successful, our business may be adversely affected.
  • If we fail to effectively manage our growth, our business and operating results may suffer.
  • We face, and will continue to face, competition for both listener hours and advertising spending.
  • Our ability to increase the number of our listeners will depend in part on our ability to establish and maintain relationships with automakers, automotive suppliers and consumer electronics manufacturers with products that integrate our service.
  • If we are unable to continue to make our technology compatible with the technologies of third-party distribution partners who make our service available to our listeners through mobile devices, consumer electronic products and automobiles, we may not remain competitive and our business may fail to grow or decline.
  • Unavailability of, or fluctuations in, third-party measurements of our audience may adversely affect our ability to grow advertising revenue.
  • The lack of accurate cross-platform measurements for internet radio and broadcast radio may adversely affect our ability to grow advertising revenue.
  • Our success depends upon the continued acceptance of online advertising as an alternative or supplement to offline advertising.
  • We operate under and pay royalties pursuant to statutory licensing structures for the reproduction and public performance of sound recordings that could change or cease to exist, which would adversely affect our business.
  • We depend upon third-party licenses for the right to publicly perform musical works and a change to or loss of these licenses could increase our content acquisition costs, reduce the sound recordings that we perform on the service or adversely affect our ability to retain and expand our listener base, and therefore could adversely affect our business.
  • If music publishers effectuate withdraws of all or a portion of their musical works from performing rights organizations for public performances by means of digital transmissions, then we may be forced to enter into direct licensing agreements with these publishers at rates higher than those we currently pay, or we may be unable to reach agreement with these publishers at all, which could adversely affect our business, our ability to attract and retain listeners, financial condition and results of operations.
  • If we fail to accurately predict and play music or comedy content that our listeners enjoy, we may fail to retain existing and attract new listeners.
  • Loss of agreements with the makers of mobile devices, renegotiation of such agreements on less favorable terms or other actions these third parties may take could harm our business.
  • We rely upon an agreement with DoubleClick, which is owned by Google, for delivering and monitoring our ads. Failure to renew the agreement on favorable terms, or termination of the agreement, could adversely affect our business.
  • If we are unable to implement and maintain effective internal control over financial reporting in the future, the accuracy and timeliness of our financial reporting may be adversely affected.
  • Our business and prospects depend on the strength of our brand and failure to maintain and enhance our brand would harm our ability to expand our base of listeners, advertisers and other partners.
  • We depend on key personnel to operate our business, and if we are unable to retain, attract and integrate qualified personnel, our ability to develop and successfully grow our business could be harmed.
  • Interruptions or delays in service arising from our own systems or from our third-party vendors could impair the delivery of our service and harm our business.
  • Our operating results may fluctuate, which makes our results difficult to predict and could cause our results to fall short of expectations.
  • Failure to protect our intellectual property could substantially harm our business and operating results.
  • Assertions by third parties of violations under state law with respect to the public performance and reproduction of pre-1972 sound recordings could result in significant costs and substantially harm our business and operating results.
  • Assertions by third parties of infringement or other violation by us of their intellectual property rights could result in significant costs and substantially harm our business and operating results.
  • We may require additional capital to pursue our business objectives and respond to business opportunities, challenges or unforeseen circumstances. If capital is not available to us, our business, operating results and financial condition may be harmed.
  • We may acquire other companies or technologies, which could divert our management’s attention, result in additional dilution to our stockholders and otherwise disrupt our operations and harm our operating results.
  • We face many risks associated with our long-term plan to expand our operations outside of the United States, including difficulties obtaining rights to publicly perform or communicate to the public music on favorable terms.
  • Expansion of our operations into non-music content, including our launch of comedy, subjects us to additional business, legal, financial and competitive risks.
  • Our ability to use our net operating loss carryforwards and certain other tax attributes may be limited.
  • We could be subject to additional income tax liabilities.
  • If we cannot maintain our corporate culture as we grow, we could lose the innovation, teamwork and focus that contribute crucially to our business.
  • Federal, state and industry regulations as well as self-regulation related to privacy and data security concerns pose the threat of lawsuits and other liability, require us to expend significant resources, and may hinder our ability and our advertisers’ ability to deliver relevant advertising.
  • If our security systems are breached, we may face civil liability and public perception of our security measures could be diminished, either of which would negatively affect our ability to attract listeners and advertisers.
  • We are subject to a number of risks related to credit card and debit card payments we accept.
  • If we fail to detect click fraud or other invalid clicks on ads, we could lose the confidence of our advertisers, which would cause our business to suffer.
  • Our success depends upon the continued acceptance of online advertising as an alternative or supplement to offline advertising.
  • Some of our services and technologies may use “open source” software, which may restrict how we use or distribute our service or require that we release the source code of certain services subject to those licenses.
  • Government regulation of the internet is evolving, and unfavorable developments could have an adverse effect on our operating results.
  • We could be adversely affected by regulatory restrictions on the use of mobile and other electronic devices in motor vehicles and legal claims are possible from use of such devices while driving.
  • We rely on third parties to provide software and related services necessary for the operation of our business.
  • The impact of worldwide economic conditions, including the effect on advertising budgets and discretionary entertainment spending behavior, may adversely affect our business and operating results.
  • Our business is subject to the risks of earthquakes, fires, floods and other natural catastrophic events and to interruption by man-made problems such as computer viruses or terrorism.
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Publishing a Website Using Google Spreadsheets

Since spreadsheets and databases are pretty much the same thing, I thought it would make sense to have a web publishing platform built on Google Spreadsheet. After taking a look around, I’m having difficulty finding anything.

I checked out the Google Spreadsheet API, and they seem to have all the functionality you need to build such an app. The only solutions I could find, however, were written for developers:

There’s even Tabletop, which takes Google Spreadsheets and converts content to Javascript for you. Still, no simple solution for publishing a widget or webpage yourself.

This slideshow, Google Spreadsheet as a Web Application Data Prototyping  highlights some of the pros and cons of using Google Spreadsheet as your database, and how the author implemented it himself.

Pros – Spreadsheet architecture is similar to relational database, changing cell/column data is easy, clients understand spreadsheet, importing data is easy, quick prototyping.

Cons – Time consuming, not an end solution.

What if you could publish websites quickly from a Google Spreadsheet so it wasn’t time consuming? And what if anyone could use Google Spreadsheet, or a similar spreadsheet app, to act as the primary database that runs a simple website?

That would be cool.

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LA Tech/Startup Event Calendars

Are you organizing an event for the LA tech/startup community? The best way to get the word out about your event is partnering with people/organizations that have a reach to your community, ideally those with large and engaged mailing lists. That being said, you should get your event listed on all the tech/startup focused event calendars. Here’s the list:

socaltech.com Event Calendar
Alexa Rank: 86,509/18,308 (global/US)
How to get listed: Submit event through site.
Event listings: Curated.

Built In LA Events
Alexa Rank: 187,070/29,837 (global/US)
How to get listed: Submit events through site.
Event listings: All submitted events are listed.

Startup Digest Los Angeles Event Calendar
Alexa Rank: 67,329/30,088 (global/US).
How to get listed: Submit through site.
Event listings: Curated.

SiliconBeachLA Event Calendar
Alexa Rank: 613,014/139,141 (global/US).
How to get listed: Email info@siliconbeachla.com
Event listings: Most submitted events are listed.

TechZulu Event Calendar
Alexa Rank: 334,263/166,764 (global/US)
How to get listed: Email events@techzulu.com.
Event listing: Curated.

QStreetStartup Events Calendar
Alexa Rank: 3,422,053/NA (global/US)
How to get listed: Submit through site.
Event listings: Not sure.

WeAreLATech Event Calendar
Alexa Rank: 8,596,302/NA (global/US).
How to get listed: Submit through site.
Event listings: Most submitted events are listed.

LA Tech Events
Alexa Rank: No Data.
How to get listed: Submit through site.
Event listings: All submitted events.

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Streamlining Process – How Long Should You Spend?

Trying to decide if you should spend time making a process you repeatedly do more efficient? Think about how often you do the task and how much time you can shave off if you make it more efficient. Then, look inside the table to see how long you’re allowed to work on the initial workload you put in before you’ve streamlined your process and start saving time.

is_it_worth_the_timeSource: XKCD

 

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Brushing Up On Coding Chops

I just built a log-in, sign-up functionality from scratch using PHP/MySQL this past week. There’s so much logic built into something that’s seemingly so simple!

– What to do if people sign-up with a non-valid email address or password.
– Checking to see if a new sign-up isn’t using an email address already registered.
– Seeing if a user signing-in has used the right password/email combo.
– Giving them the right notification based on any errors they’ve made.

I haven’t even touched letting people stay logged-in if they leave the browser, or letting people log-out once they’ve logged-in. No wonder the best practice these days is not building everything from scratch.

So I’m turning this into a framework I can use for any web product that requires login/signup functionality.

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In & Over My Head

I’m about to sit in on a Coloft Academy class called Elasticsearch, An Introduction. As it’s title suggests, it’s a class that introduces you to Elasticsearch, a “flexible and powerful open source, distributed real-time search and analytics engine for the cloud.” Long story short, I’m pretty lost already.

Other students of this class include the CTO of DocStoc, and devs from Science and Demand Media. Definitely going to be lost…

In my experience though, pushing your limits is a great way to speed up learning. I assume I’ll be completely lost during this class, and perhaps a few years later I’ll remember this class and notice how far I’ve come along.

Mostly, I’m writing this blog post so I can type up all the words I don’t understand:

  • “Clustered” database
  • Dynamo
  • Riak
  • Cassandra
  • Lucene – a set of Java libraries to perform search
  • NFS
  • top-level namespace
  • “clustering”
  • boolean filters

Huh, surprisingly I was able to follow most of the class. Baller.

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